Wednesday, January 2, 2008
School intersection remains snarled in negotiations - The Crier
By Cathy Cobbs for The Crier; 01/02/2008
The entrance to the new $19 million Peachtree Charter Middle School is just a few feet away from completion, but it seems miles away from being finished.
Although the school opened in August, the final piece of the puzzle, the North Peachtree entrance at Kings Point Circle, remains closed. Parents and buses are forced to use side parking lots and the much smaller Barclay Drive entrance, which essentially blocks for several hours a day the operations of a DeKalb County fire station located down the road. Parents say the area is a congested mess during drop-off and pick-up times each day.
The county and school system had been at odds as to who will bear the cost of the intersection completion and improvements, and while they claim to have solved the funding issues, recent e-mail communications indicate that the cost may be reduced to $50,000 or less in order to accommodate budgetary concerns.
An escalating level of frustration at the lack of details as well as concerns about the lowering cost of the improvements has at least one resident contemplating filing an open records request.
John Heneghan, the president of the Dunwoody North Civic Association, has a list of concerns about the project, and says he’s not getting any answers. He e-mailed a request for the specific plans for the intersection December 12 to the county’s public works department, but hasn’t heard anything.
In a letter to Patricia Pope, the school’s chief operating officer, and Ted Rhinehart of DeKalb’s public works department, Heneghan asked specifically if the plans include acceleration lanes, turn lanes, a dedicated directional light for those turning left into the school, and crosswalk controls. During the planning phase of the school’s construction, these improvements were included, he said.
“Safety of the intersection is my primary concern at this point therefore; I want to know if the final design has those features [that were outlined earlier],” Heneghan wrote. “If the intersection does not have these features, then the Dunwoody community would be interested in knowing why they have been removed from the project.”
Heneghan said he has heard several different cost estimates by various county and school officials, and said that in itself is frustrating.
“Setting up an intersection to match the money available doesn’t seem to make sense to me,” he said in an interview with the Crier.
In an e-mail from an assistant in District 1 Commissioner Elaine Boyer’s office to Heneghan, reducing the cost of the improvements was discussed.
“John Gurbal, [DeKalb County’s] director of transportation, is working with the school district’s project managers; the way they wanted the signal designed, to avoid their having to dedicate some right-of-way, was more costly than they expected,” the e-mail said. “When Traffic Engineering sent them the estimate, they asked if it could be reduced; so we’re trying to work on the cost estimate to get it within their budget (under $50,000).”
No date has been set to begin the construction, according to government officials, another detail that has parents and administrators frustrated.
“It seems like this process is taking forever, and it’s becoming a safety issue,” said one parent. “There have already been some close calls with children crossing the street in heavy traffic - something needs to happen soon.”
Neither Gurbal nor Pope was available for comment prior to the Crier’s early holiday deadline.